Macy’s, Amazon, Sears, and Leon Max, were doing their part to save the planet when, a few years ago, they made an effort to sell products labeled as being made with more eco-friendly bamboo textiles–except that, as far as the Federal Trade Commission is concerned, they weren’t made of bamboo at all. They were made of rayon.
According to WWD, the FTC has slapped the retailers with a combined fine of $1.26 million for allegedly mislabeling rayon products as made of bamboo, violating the Textile Products Identification Act. What’s more, the agency said the retailers ignored warning letters sent over the span of two years.
“When attempting to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, companies need to ensure they don’t cross the line into misleading labeling and advertising,” said Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If a textile is made of rayon, sellers need to say that, even if bamboo was used somewhere along the line in the production process.”
All four retailers agreed to settle the charges with the FTC: Sears, including its Kmart subsidiaries, agreed to pay $475,000, while Amazon agreed to pay $455,000, Macy’s $250,000 and Leon Max $80,000. The varying penalties reflect how long the companies continued to sell mislabeled textiles after receiving the warning letter and the number of products sold, according to ABC News.
The problem first came to the FTC’s attention in 2009, when the organization charged several other companies (only four settled) for allegedly selling rayon products labeled as bamboo. They then sent out 78 letters to retailers warning them to stop the misleading practice. In 2010, the FTC ruled that the process required to turn bamboo into a soft textile, which requires extensive chemical processing, essentially turns the raw material into rayon–which, as we all know, is neither eco-friendly nor biodegradable.
Hopefully, retailers will take this as a warning to clean up their act and stop falsely labeling products as being more eco-friendly than they really are. In the meantime, eco-minded consumers might want to think twice about the labels on their clothes.